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What is Crisis Pay in Nursing & Travel Jobs?

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In this COVID-19 pandemic, many media outlets are talking about “crisis pay.” The question of who should get crisis pay and who is getting it is a hot topic at a time when many people such as healthcare providers are having to work extra hours and take extra risks in order to do their jobs. But what is crisis pay? What does it look like, who gets it, and when?

What is Crisis Pay?

You may be hearing the words “crisis pay” used in the media a lot lately. The current pandemic means that “all hands on deck” are needed in the healthcare field, and experts say that the increased demand for medical staff could last for over a year as we work on immunizing our population against COVID-19 and treating the complications it leaves behind.

But what exactly is “crisis pay?” How much do healthcare workers like nurses get paid during times like this, and how does that affect your career?

We here at Soliant strive to provide the best support and information for today’s healthcare workers, and the healthcare workers of the future. We’re committed to helping you find healthcare jobs where you can be paid fairly for helping those most in need during this difficult time.

We know that these times can be frightening for healthcare workers who face risks and emotional hardships as they provide medical expertise and a comforting presence for those affected by COVID-19. When times seem dark, stories that remind us of the extreme value of nursing care can help us to remember just how vital our work is.

So what do employers do to compensate and motivate nurses and other healthcare workers during these difficult times? Read on for a breakdown of crisis pay, and how it affects nurses and travel healthcare professionals.

Crisis Pay Nursing Jobs

Crisis pay is extra pay that is offered to workers when they are needed to work extra hours, or in risky conditions. Crisis pay is most often offered to truly essential workers who society can’t do without, such as nurses, doctors, and emergency responders.

There is no federal requirement for how much healthcare workers receive in crisis pay, or when they receive it. Crisis pay is designed to ensure that there are enough essential workers in our hospitals and clinics, so that patients can receive quality care even under risky conditions, or when demand is higher than usual. As such, each individual employer decides when, whether, and how to offer crisis pay according to the needs of their patients and staff.

Some examples of ways in which crisis pay might be delivered include:

  • $5-$20 per hour in extra pay for nurses working during times of crisis.
  • 5 times the usual hourly amount during times of crisis.
  • Bonuses of $100 or $200 total for each extra shift worked, or each shift worked under risky conditions.

Crisis pay may include both extra compensation for nurses working in risky conditions, and extra pay for overtime work beyond the number of hours healthcare workers would usually be allowed or required to work.

Both types of measures are designed to ensure that healthcare workers are available when patients need them most and that healthcare workers can meet their basic needs and provide for their own well-being during crisis circumstances.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, some people have called for classifying other workers, such as grocery stores, warehouses, and post office workers, as “essential workers” who also deserve crisis pay since they are putting themselves at risk in order to keep our society running during this time. For now, however, crisis pay is still mostly offered to healthcare workers and emergency responders.

Crisis Rate Travel Nursing

Travel nurses who respond to crises may get paid much more than nurses who work under routine conditions in hospitals and clinics.

Nurses who make themselves available to go wherever disaster strikes through travel nursing jobs, and who are willing to put themselves at risk to help those most in need, have an average salary of $98,000 per year for U.S.-based nurses who work for U.S.-based companies.

In 2019, travel nurse salaries varied drastically from $20,000 per year to $191,000 per year. As in all jobs, travel nurses were paid more if they had more years of education and experience if they worked more hours and if they worked in areas with higher costs of living.

This wide range of salaries was also affected by crisis pay: those travel nurses who worked in risky conditions or who worked overtime during times of crisis were often paid more than those working under routine conditions.

Travel Nurse Crisis Pay

Travel nursing is a very rewarding career for those who enjoy change and seeing the world. However, it can be stressful for those who prefer to have a stable routine, or who have responsibilities in a particular city or state.

Travel nurses usually receive short contracts that place them in an area where care is needed for a few weeks or months. Their contracts may be extended by their employer if the need for care lasts longer than anticipated. They usually work for healthcare companies or staffing agencies that provide essential medical staff to hospitals and clinics around the country and the world.

The nature of this job makes it unpredictable, since medical needs around the U.S. and the world may change rapidly without warning. This means that contracts may be extended without warning, and travel nurses can’t always control where or when their skills are needed.

However, for people who love excitement and change, travel nursing can be a great opportunity to enjoy these things while knowing they are helping people most in need. Those who are up for risk-taking can also enjoy increased pay by working in areas facing acute crises, where their skills are needed most.

Housing for travel nurses may be provided directly by their employer, or their employer may give them vouchers or other assistance to procure their own housing. One thing to be aware of is that travel nurses may experience higher costs of living since short-term housing can have higher monthly rent than long-term housing and they may not always have the time or energy to cook from scratch. This is one reason why travel nursing jobs often pay more than long-term nursing jobs.

If you think the exciting life of a travel nurse is for you, now may be the perfect time to investigate COVID-19 related travel nursing opportunities, which are more likely to come with crisis pay now than during ordinary times.

Contract Nursing Jobs

Contract nursing jobs offer another balance between predictability, change, and freedom. Contract nursing jobs offer full-time nursing work with benefits – but these contracts are temporary, so they expire at a given date.

For some nurses, this is scary because it means there is the possibility of difficulty finding a new contract. But for others, it’s like a dream come true because contract nurses can schedule weeks or even months off between their contracts.

Employers are often willing to pay a premium for temporary nurses during times of increased demand, so contract nurses usually make more per hour than nurses in long-term contracts. The average salary of a contract nurse in 2019 was the equivalent of $95,000 per year (though nurses may make less than this if they take weeks or months off). Contract nursing salaries ranged from $29,000 to $178,000.

Travel nursing jobs are one example of contract nursing jobs, but they’re not the only type. Temporary full-time nursing contracts may be available for nurses who want to stay in a single city or state while having the freedom to take time off or work for different hospitals and clinics.

Contract Nurses

Do you love change and excitement? Do you prefer the freedom to take time off or move to a new location over the stability of a job that doesn’t change?

If you do, contract nursing may be for you! Many people have enjoyed the freedom that comes with shorter contracts which allow for longer vacations and frequent changes of scenery.

Some nurses work as a contract or travel basis for a few years to get the benefits of seeing the world and taking personal time between contracts, then later settle into full-time nursing jobs at their favorite location. Contract nursing can be a great way to “interview” different locations when determining where you want to live long term.

Travel Nurse Contract

Those considering travel or contract nursing should familiarize themselves with different types of contracts that are offered. As with all contracts, different employers and contracts may offer different benefits and have different requirements of the nurse who takes them.

By reading a wide variety of travel nurse job descriptions and reading online communities or message boards for travel nurses, you can learn more about the different benefits and requirements that are offered – and find the type of travel nurse contract that’s right for you.

Soliant’s listings of healthcare jobs are a great place to start learning about and comparing the options that are available to you. During these frightening times, we also offer stories that remind us of why we became nurses in the first place.

Now, more than ever, travel and contract nurses are needed to ensure that patients receive care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those who enter the field at this time will face unusual risks from exposure to patients who may have the novel coronavirus, but also face the possibility of drastically increased crisis pay and the satisfaction of helping those who are most in need.

Start your search for crisis response openings through the button below.

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Contributor Patrick Dotts

Patrick, who’s grown with Soliant over the past 12+ years, was promoted to Senior Vice President of the healthcare department in February 2022. Before that, Patrick was the director of Soliant’s nursing and allied health division. Patrick has worked very closely with not only hospitals and other healthcare facilities but also the healthcare professionals that make up their workforce. This experience has given Patrick a unique insight into the ins and outs of the medical field, especially regarding its workforce. Before Soliant, he graduated from Bowling Green University and cherishes his free time with his wife, daughter, and son. Make sure to read more of Patrick’s other blogs on nursing and allied health.